The regular-season finale is here, and the Detroit Lions will try to end the 2020 season on a high note today at Ford Field against division foe Minnesota.
This will be a busy offseason in Detroit with open general manager and head coaching positions, and the team would like nothing better than to head into the uncertainty of the offseason with a good taste in their mouth by beating the Vikings.
Here are five things to watch out for today:
PLAYING FOR PRIDE
While the other NFC North division game between Green Bay and Chicago has playoff implications, this matchup between the Lions and Vikings is more about pride. It's been a difficult year for both teams, but coaches and players from each side talked this week about being professionals, and how a win this week can carry some momentum into the offseason.
"I basically talked to the players (Wednesday) about the love of this game, and basically, respect for this game and what that means and what that looks like," Lions interim head coach Darrell Bevell said this week. "I think for all of us we have a great love for this game. To echo (Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer) Zim, yes, this is the last game that you'll play, and it will stick with you for a long time. It's one that you'll remember the most, but there's still other things that we'll remember.
"As far as going out – it's what we signed up for, it's what we love to do. If you respect this game, then you'll give it everything you have. We don't know when our last opportunity is going to be to play this great game. I remember the day when it was my last opportunity – if you give me an opportunity to go play right now, I'd go play. That's how much I love this game.
"I think those guys, sometimes we lose track of that. I think it's important for them to remember, come Monday morning, for some guys it may be the last time that they ever put that uniform on again, for some guys – like I said earlier – we're all in an opportunity for us to be evaluated, whether it's here, whether it's other places, everybody across the league is looking at it. We want to make sure that we do a great job of putting our best foot forward, showing our competitive side, how we like to compete, how we like to work, and I think that respect comes out by our actions."
Detroit's defense will try to avoid ending up on the wrong side of the record books today after a tough season for that side of the ball.
Detroit's allowed 482 points this season. They need to hold the Vikings to less than 35 points on Sunday to avoid tying the franchise record for most points allowed in a season. The defense needs to hold Minnesota under 262 yards of total offense to avoid allowing the most yards in a season in franchise history.
It's been a tough year on defense for Detroit, and that side of the ball will likely have a big makeover this offseason.
The Vikings won't have Pro Bowl running back Dalvin Cook today, but Alexander Mattison and co. are still very capable of racking up yards if the Lions allow them to. Minnesota is sixth in the NFL in total offense and are trying to finish top 10 in the league in that category for the first time since 2009.
The rookie class got a raw deal this year entering this league during a pandemic and having to navigate through all the offseason cancellations.
For those first-year players, they have one more opportunity to leave their mark on 2020.
A big game by running back D’Andre Swift could potentially get him to 1,000 scrimmage yards in 13 games played. There's a lot to like about Swift's game moving forward.
Jonah Jackson looks like a player who can slot into a guard role for the next decade in Detroit. He'll likely play his 1,000th snap of the season today. He's been a reliable staple all season upfront for the Lions.
Defensive end Julian Okwara has dealt with an injury most of the season, but he got into the stat book last week and will be looking to show he can make an impact late. Defensive tackle John Penisini and wide receiver Quintez Cephus have also stepped up at points and made an impact.
DOUBLE DIGIT SACKS
My colleague Mike O'Hara pointed out this week that defensive end Romeo Okwara, with one more sack today, could join a select group of Lions players who have had double-digit sack seasons this century. The others: Robert Porcher, James Hall, Ndamukong Suh, Cliff Avril and Ziggy Ansah (twice).
"We've got to get that number up," Porcher told O'Hara. "To have just five guys since 1999 ... We've got to get that going."
Okwara's been Detroit's most consistent defender all season, and he'll likely garner some interest as he enters free agency this offseason.
STAFFORD TO TOUGH IT OUT?
It appears thumb, rib and now an ankle injury still won't keep Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford from finishing out the season. It's been a tough year for Stafford on the injury front, but as always, he's never complained about it or used it as an excuse. He's shown once again just how tough he is.
Stafford returned to practice on a limited basis Thursday to test his injured right ankle and see how it would respond Friday. Stafford was back at practice Friday, which is a good sign he'll probably be able to give it a go and finish out the season playing in all 16 games. That would be a pretty remarkable feat given what he's dealt with physically. Stafford was officially listed as questionable to play today.
Will the ankle injury limit him at all? Stafford needs 209 passing yards to get to 4,000 on the year, which would be the eighth 4,000-yard passing season of his career and the first since 2017.